Monroe Myths: Presidential Pets

Presidential pets have long been a source of interest and delight for the American public. Dogs hold sway as a perennial favorite, but other White House pets have ranged from the unexpected (Andrew Jackson's parrot, Poll, who allegedly had to be removed from his funeral for swearing) to the disappointingly inaccurate (John Quincy Adams did not, in fact, keep a pet alligator in a White House bathtub) to the truly diverse (Calvin and Grace Coolidge fielded a range of animals, from raccoons to wallabys to lion cubs). Was James Monroe in the ranks of presidential pet owners? Myth: Several published works (and numerous websites) of presidential pet histories attribute two dogs to Monroe's ownership – a spaniel who lived with them in the White House, and a Siberian husky named Sebastian. Fact: Monroe's surviving correspondence is notoriously sparse for its commentary on matters of a personal nature, and this dearth extends to references to any four-legged members of his household. In … [Read more...]

Monroe Myths: James Monroe’s last words

"It falls to my lot to communicate to you the death of our excillent [sic] friend Mr Monroe. he died exactly at half past 3 oClock P.M after a lingering illness, but easy death. ... What a remarkable coincidence of the deaths of three of our venerable revolationary [sic] Patriots & Presidents" (Tench Ringgold to James Madison, 4 July 1831 [1]) Myth: Numerous sources of presidential trivia cite Monroe's last words as "I regret that I should leave this world without again beholding him," referencing his friend of four decades, James Madison.  None of the websites or publications reviewed have provided a citation to verify sourcing. Fact: To date, Monroe's last words have not been identified. The account of his death is largely drawn from Tench Ringgold, who was Monroe's "...constant attendant & nurse" for the final months of his life and the author of the above-cited letter to Madison.[2] On 7 July, Ringgold shared a more complete account of Monroe's final months: "During … [Read more...]

New Blog Series: Monroe Myths

The ongoing research and publication of the Papers of James Monroe often brings its editors in contact with various myths and misconceptions connected to Monroe's life and writings - misattributed quotes, inaccurate biographical information, and speculation into personal matters. This well-intentioned content is often attempting to fill a vacuum created by Monroe himself. While his voluminous surviving correspondence of nearly 40,000 documents provides valuable insight into the the political development of the early Federal period of American history, his private nature left minimal insight into his detailed activities, personal matters, or private thoughts. The new blog series Monroe Myths will focus on corrections or clarifications to misinformation identified in the process of preparing Monroe's papers for publication, and will address both the serious ("What were Monroe's last words?") and the more lighthearted ("Did Monroe have a pet  Siberian husky named Sebastian?"). While it … [Read more...]